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Write-off risk over UK crop still in ground

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The Scottish potato harvest is complete “as near as makes no difference” but there’s now a real risk that the 11% of the UK crop which is still in the ground will need to be written off.

“There will be bits and pieces left in the ground in Scotland, or abandoned, but the acreage isn’t large here,” said NFU Scotland’s Potato Working Group chairman, Peter Grewar.

“Scottish lifting basically finished in October with just a few areas left to harvest in November.”

It is a very different picture in England, however, where the latest figures from AHDB identified 11% of the crop as still to be lifted.

“Farmers have worked through challenging conditions to harvest the majority of potatoes planted this year, which is a testament to their resilience,” said AHDB’s head of arable market intelligence, David Eudall.

“However, for those who couldn’t lift earlier in the year the saturated ground is affecting their ability to access the crop.”

According to AHDB, data shows that 2-3% of the crop is now unlikely to be lifted at all, due to saturated soils degrading quality.

“I would place the figure much higher than that,” said Mr Grewar.

“The problem now, of course, is that growers in Yorks and Humber woke up to temperature of minus four degrees yesterday and potatoes can’t cope with minus four.

“There’s a real potential now that the unlifted 11% of the British crop could be written off.”

Grampian Growers potato manager David Murdie said Scotland had fared better than other European countries.

“While we have bits and pieces left, Holland is on 10-15% unlifted, Belgium and France both 5-10%, with Germany having around 8-12% still to be harvested,” he said.

He added: “I think there’s still 10-12% to be harvested in Western Europe.

“That means we have the same tonnage in store now as we did at the end of lifting last year.

“That will obviously have an influence on prices.”

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